Your Healthiest You 40, 50, 60 and 70+ | Heart
Date of publishing: 13th Nov 2018
Your Healthiest You 40, 50, 60 and 70+ | Heart
Source: Jessica Brown, Prevention, Pfizer Get Old Team
Help keep your heart in tip-top shape with this complete science-backed plan1.
One of every four female deaths is due to heart disease, making it the leading cause of death for women. That's important to know, says Nakela L. Cook, chief of staff in the Office of the Director at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, "because one in three women already have some evidence of cardiovascular disease." Whatever your age, you can use this advice to lower your risk and keep your heart healthy. According to the Irish Heart Foundation, Cardiovascular disease is currently the cause of one-third of all deaths and one in five premature deaths. Approximately 10,000 people die each year from cardiovascular disease – including coronary heart disease, stroke and other circulatory diseases2. By 2020 people with Cardiovascular Disease is set to increase by 40%2
Follow a heart-healthy diet. That means a diet low in saturated fat and rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. "Portion sizes are important, too," Cook says. The heart-healthy DASH diet—which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension—is promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute as an effective way to reduce blood pressure and stay at a healthy weight. Did you know the average dinner plate in the 1960s was 9 inches compared to the average dinner plate today which is 12inches? Mastering portion control is key to losing weight3.
Increase your physical activity. Aim for 30 minutes a day most days of the week, advises Cook. "Even if you do small increments of activity that get your heart beating faster, like 10 minutes here and there three or more times a day, it will have an impact on your cardiovascular health," she says.
Take steps to combat stress. "This tends to be one of the busiest decades in women's lives," says Christine Jellis, a cardiologist with Cleveland Clinic. "Many women are working full-time, might have young children, might be caring for older relatives. It's easy to forget about our own health." People dealing with high levels of stress often don't have time for adequate sleep, relaxation, exercise, or healthy eating, she explains—all of which are important for keeping the heart healthy.
Make sure you have a skilled primary care provider. Talk with a doctor about your individual risk factors, including family history, and get advice for developing a heart-healthy lifestyle going forward. If you had high blood pressure or diabetes while pregnant, make sure your doctor continues to monitor those issues; they can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease later.
Know your numbers. Get baseline screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and BMI. Your risk of heart disease in your 40s is still relatively low, but undergoing hormone therapy or smoking and taking oral contraceptives increase that risk.
Focus even more on diet and exercise. "This is a decade when women tend to gain weight," says Cook. If you aren't monitoring it, weight can creep up slowly until the time comes when you have to make drastic changes. Paying attention now can head off a more serious problem later.
Talk to a health care provider about the pros and cons of estrogen therapy. "Taking hormone therapy as a primary way of preventing heart disease is not recommended," says Cook. "But we are starting to learn more about how estrogen can protect women's hearts at different times in their lives."
Ask your doctor about vitamin D. New research is looking at whether vitamin D supplementation can reduce the risk of heart disease. Although results aren't in yet, many doctors believe that vitamin D—which the body absorbs from food and produces after exposure to sunlight—plays a vital role in overall health and heart health and that it's important not to let your level get low. "A lot of people living in northern regions don't get adequate sun exposure and are deficient in vitamin D," says Jellis. "Ask for a blood test to check your level, and consider supplements if your doctor finds your level is low."
Keep an eye on your numbers. Have your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and BMI checked at least annually to make sure your risk factors stay low.
Limit the salt in your diet. Even if you've never had high blood pressure, now is a good time to take steps to keep it in check, such as reducing your salt intake. "As people get older, the artery walls get stiffer, which increases the risk of hypertension," explains Jellis. "People who don't have a history of it may develop it because of this increased stiffness." She adds that other medical problems that become more common with age, such as diabetes and kidney disease, also make high blood pressure more likely.
Consider nutritional supplements. "A well-balanced diet is ideal," says Jellis, "but if you aren't eating well, it's smart to discuss vitamin or mineral supplements with your doctor." Just as important as what you do eat is what you don't. Besides salt, try to minimize your intake of sugar, which can raise blood glucose, and saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol levels.
Pay attention to symptoms. Chest pain or discomfort is the major sign of a heart attack, but women may also experience less-typical symptoms such as shortness of breath or back pain. "Jaw pain, nausea, increased fatigue—all can be atypical symptoms of coronary artery disease," says Jellis. "Listen to your body and seek an evaluation if you're concerned so you don't delay getting diagnosed."
Keep moving. Problems like arthritis or osteoporosis may mean that the type of activity you did previously is no longer comfortable or possible, but it's still important to get regular exercise. "Workouts can be tailored to people with special health conditions or needs," says Jellis. And while cardio activity is obviously very important for heart health, women also need to maintain strength, such as with weight training, for overall health. "A good workout is a balance of the two," Jellis says.
Maintain your social ties. "Depression can have an impact on cardiovascular risk," says Jellis, "especially as we get older and sometimes become more isolated because of health or other issues." If you can't see friends in person, set up a Skype call or online chat group. Sign up for local activities or classes to meet more people in your community.
Check your medications. Most drugs don't have an age cutoff, but older people may have more problems from side effects and interactions with other medications. "If you've been taking medicines for a long time, talk with your physician," says Cook. Ask whether eliminating, changing, or reducing the dosage of any of your medications could alleviate any problems you're having.
Date of Preparation: August 2018
- https://www.getold.com/your-healthiest-you-40-50-60-and-70. Date Accessed 28th August 2018
- https://irishheart.ie/our-mission/our-policies/heart-disease-irelands-no-1-killer/. Date Accessed 28th August 2018
- https://irishheart.ie/your-health/ways-to-live-better/healthy-eating/eat-way-healthier-heart/. Date Accessed 28th August 2018